REASON BEHIND THE CELEBRATION
The worship of Devi Durga in the month of Ashwin is called
Akalbodhan'- an unconventional time for inauguration of the
worship. It is so called since the period of this worship differs
from the conventional period (during the spring - 'Basanta').
In the ancient times, a demon called 'Mahishasura' earned the
favor of 'Lord Brahma' through extreme austerity and
prolonged meditation. Pleased with the devotion of the demon,
the lord blessed him with a boon that no man or Deity would be
able to kill him. Empowered with the boon, Mahishasura started
his reign of terror over the Earth and Heaven.
INVASION OF HEAVEN:
People were already being killed mercilessly and even the Gods
were assaulted. Yet the worse was yet to come. It came
when an strong army of demons was gathered to siege the
abode of the Deities. The army was led by the king
Mahishasura, the green skinned demon (Asura) with the form
of a giant buffalo (Mahish).
With its weapons of iron, and its phalanxes of elephants and
charioteers the army finally marched on the king of gods,
Purandara or (Indra), defeating him. Then, Mahishasura usurped
the throne of heaven.
The victory was complete, and all the gods were driven out of
the heaven. Routed they went to the trinity of the Supreme
Gods, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva to save themselves and the
people of the world. The orgy of violence vis-a-vis the the
invasion of the heaven by the evils enraged the Supreme Gods.
Their faces were flushed with anger and a dazzling luminescence
flooded forth. Great flames and thunderbolt streaked through all
directions. The fires illuminated all the three worlds: the heaven,
the earth, and the nether-world with penetrating beams of
THE BIRTH OF DURGA:
At a single point, the energy of all the fires coalesced and assumed
a shape, in the form of a young woman. Her face was from the
light of Shiva. Her ten arms were from Lord Vishnu. Her legs were
from Lord Brahma.
The dispossessed gods were awed by the supreme energy and
enchanting beauty of the conceived Goddess. They praised her
and equipped her with their divine gifts:
Shiva gave Her a trident with a spear-end. Krishna gave her his
rotating disc which could sever any matter. Varuna, the God of
the sea, gave her a conch and the God of fire gave her a missile.
From the wind, Vayu, she received arrows. The king of gods,
Indra, gave her the thunder-bolt and the gift of his white-skinned
elephant Airavata was a bell. From Yama, the god of death, Durga
received a rod, and from the Ruler of Waters she was given a
Durga received many other precious and magical treasures-- gifts
of jewels, new clothing, and a garland of immortal lotuses for her
head and breasts. Heaven's architect Viswakarma gave her a
bright axe and magic armor. God of mountains, Himalayas gave
her jewels and a magnificent lion to ride into battle.
Now equipped with the fearsome weaponry and magical powers of
the gods, and dressed in golden armor and jewels she set off, seated
gracefully upon the lion. His thunderous roars shook the three
worlds. Oceans swelled up to scrape the sky and surf broke over
the land. Continents were torn at their granite foundations as whole
new chains of mountains rose, while older ranges crumbled, cracked,
and gave way to dust in a thousand landslides.
Seeing these cataclysmic ripplings in waves through all the three
worlds, Mahishasura and his demon allies found their attention drawn
from heaven to Earth. Though confident of their power and control
in heaven, even the conquering demon host could not help being
The demons had little time to admire the radiant visage of their
new adversary, for soon she engaged them on the battlefield. First,
the army of Chikasura, and then that of Chamara, the two chief
commanders (also called Shumbha and Nishumbha, of Mahishasura
by some) were met. They were destroyed in a great battle.
Then it was the turn for Mahishasura.
THE TERMINATION OF MAHISHASURA:
Confident but confused by the humiliating defeat of his loyal and
powerful commanders Mahishasura did his best in arranging and
equipping his personal army.
This time the heaven was led by Durga as the boon of Mahishasura
could only make him invincible against all but woman. Surrounded by
chants of praise, the blowing of horns the beating of drums and
songs of worship Durga roamed the battlefield on her mighty lion.
From her divine breath her army was constantly replenished with
new warriors, each able, brave and resolute.
Shocked and enraged by the disastrous events on the battlefield.
In a mad desperate bid Mahishasura then reverted to his own form,
a buffalo, and charged about on the battlefield.
In a wild rage he charged at Durga's divine soldiers wounding many,
biting others and all the while thrashing with his long, whip-like tail.
Durga's lion, angered by the presence of the demon buffalo,
attacked him. While he was thus engaged, Durga threw her noose
around his neck.But through magical spell Mahishasura kept changing
his shape and form from one to another so as to puzzle the Devi.
Finally the Goddess beheaded the buffalo and from it emerged
Mahishasura in his original form. Durga pierced his chest with the
trident and relieved the world from the evil power.
The gods returned to heaven, and along with the sages of the earth,
they sang praises and showered floral compliments to Goddess Durga.
Henceforth, and to this day, Durga is worshipped by all the gods
in heaven, and all human beings on earth. Mahishasura is there
too--frozen in his moment of final defeat, impaled by Durga's
spear and seeking pardon beneath her left foot. The Goddess
continued to be worshipped in this form.
According to Puranas (the epics) , King Suratha, used to worship
the goddess in spring. Thus Durga Puja was also known as
Basanti Puja (Basanta being Spring).
While the vernal worship of Durga still goes on but it is
Ram's Akalbodhan during the autumn that came to be a most
widely accepted practice.
In the 'Ramayana', as it goes, Rama went to 'Lanka' to rescue his
abducted wife, Sita, from the grip of Ravana, the king of the
Demons in Lanka. Before starting for his battle with Ravana, Rama
wanted the blessings of Devi Durga . He came to know that the
Goddess would be most pleased if she is worshipped with
one hundred blue lotuses ('NeelKamal') . Rama, after travelling
the whole world, could gather only ninety nine of them. He finally
decided to offer one of his eyes, which resembled blue lotuses.
Durga, was pleased with his devotion and appeared before Rama
and blessed him.
The epical battle started on the 'Saptami' and Ravana was finally
killed on the 'Sandhikshan' i.e. the crossover period between Ashtami
(the next day) and Navami (the day after). Ravana was
cremated on Dashami. This is why Dashera is celebrated in India
with so much of fanfare and the effigy of Raavana is burnt.
In course of time Bengalis adopted the autumnal worship of Durga
performed by Rama and made it their main festival. The Pujas span
over the four days, the time taken by Rama to finally kill and cremate